Week 1: IDA



HOW WE MET: Elementary School

Ida (pronounced Eee-da) and I met in grade 4 when her family moved to Montreal from Italy. She spoke neither English nor French so our teacher assigned me to help her with vocabulary, dictation and spelling.


Ida hamming it up in the early 80s. (Photo: C. Cristofaro)


During dictation, I’d read a sentence out loud and include the punctuation so she’d know when we’d reached the end of the sentence:  “David and Anne crossed the street – period.” When she wrote the word “period” each time I said it, I didn’t know what to do. Finally, I grabbed her pencil, placed a dot at the end of a sentence, pointed at it and slowly mouthed “pe-ri-od”.  “Ah, si!” she exclaimed and burst into laughter.

The student quickly surpassed the teacher. Today Ida speaks Italian, English, French, Spanish and Russian and, more than 40 years later, she’s still my friend. Along the way, she’s taught me a lot about food – not the technique of cooking it – but enjoying the process of cooking and then eating it.

Family is everything to Ida. Now that her two children are grown, she is dedicated to caring for a parent in the advanced stages of Alzheimer and a sibling battling cancer.  And she does it all with a smile and an unspoken attitude that says “I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is how it’s supposed to be.”


Cause that’s close to her heart: Poverty and Homelessness
In a society such as ours, no one should be living on the street or go to bed hungry. They estimate that we have 30,000 homeless people in Montreal. This figure will increase if the gap between the rich and the poor keeps getting wider. There are thousands of people in Montreal living from pay check to pay check. They are the future homeless if we do nothing about it.  We can volunteer in soup kitchens and bring bags of used clothing to shelters.  This is only putting a small bandage on the problem. We have to educate the youth and re-establish political stability so that people can work.

Biggest Fear:
That I will outlive my children.

Guilty Pleasure:


Ida looking like an Italian movie star. (Photo: C. Cristofaro)

I’ve never really understood this expression. I often feel guilty about a lot of things. For example neglecting friends and then getting the horrible news that they’ve passed away.  Disappointing people because I just can’t do everything that’s demanded of me no matter how hard I try.  I think guilty pleasures are meant to get rid of things in our daily lives that cause stress and anxiety. In that case I drink good wine, eat great chocolate and occasionally open a bag of Cape Cod chips while watching really mushy, romantic movies like Letters to Juliet, Under the Tuscan Sun  or You’ve got mail.  To this I will also add that I feel no guilt, only pleasure.

What makes her laugh:
Really good jokes make me laugh. Comedians like Danny Bhoy or Louis C.K. Everyday life also makes me laugh.  Observing how people and the world have changed.  I find that getting older has made me more honest with my feelings and that in itself has been the source of a lot of laughter material.

Pet Peeve:
Magazines where everything and everyone is touched up and air brushed. We all know no one really looks like that. I know Oprah is 60 years old and yet on the cover of her magazine she looks the same age as Beyonce.  Really!!!!


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